Clevelanders may remember now-indicted Paul Manafort, the face of the Republican National Convention

October 30, 2017 GMT

Clevelanders may remember now-indicted Paul Manafort, the face of the Republican National Convention

WASHINGTON -- Hours before prime-time speakers, political luminaries and then-nominee Donald Trump appeared for the star-spangled excitement of the Republican National Convention, a dapper man little known to Cleveland residents would show up at the city’s convention center.

Paul Manafort, a power broker in Washington, often had a cell phone to his ear as he walked down the corridor. His bearing, his suits and his green, pink or red power ties conveyed importance, his voice deep and calm. Manafort was, in fact, important -- important enough to draw the national press every morning as he and top aides provided the convention briefings that both set the tone for what would happen that night blocks away at The Q, and provide reaction to whatever news was breaking in the early morning.

Here’s a sampling of when and why Northeast Ohio might now hear the name of Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chairman and convention manager, and realize that he sounded awfully familiar. Manafort turned himself in today on federal charges of conspiracy and money laundering in an ongoing investigation.

May 5, 2016: In advance of a planned visit to check out the site of the RNC as plans shaped up, Manafort told MSNBC he was excited for what would take place that summer in Cleveland. Trump, a real estate billionaire, was known for his reality television program, “The Apprentice,” and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews asked if the convention would be like a reality show.

“Well, this is the ultimate reality show, it’s the presidency of the United States,” Manafort replied.

May 13, 2016: Manafort and other campaign staff visited Cleveland to go over convention plans.

“We envision a convention that will allow the American people to see Mr. Trump as the next president of the United States,” Manafort told reporters that day. Asked how Trump felt about the prospect of being nominated in Cleveland, Manafort said: “He’s excited for Cleveland. He’s excited about Ohio. And we look forward to Ohio putting us over in November.”

Welcome to Cleveland, Paul Manafort

July 17, 2016: In media appearances the day before the convention kicked off, Manafort offered an outline of the week’s activities. He was pressed to discuss the role of Peter Thiel, an openly gay tech billionaire -- and the first openly gay Republican to speak at the party’s conventions since 2000. The party’s platform was still regarded as anti-LGBT.

“As far as his sexual preference, as chairman [Reince] Priebus has said, this is an open tent party, and people are going to be speaking at this convention based on what they want to say, not on any particular sexual preference and things like that,” Manafort said.

July 18, 2016: Manafort, known in Washington as a bulldog, began the first day of the convention by attacking Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who as a fellow Republican (and GOP presidential rival) refused to endorse Trump and turned down invitations to speak at the RNC.

Manafort said Kasich was “embarrassing his state.”

A little strange that Manafort would openly antagonize a popular governor in his home state as the convention opens there ...— Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) July 18, 2016

Separately, Manafort said at a press breakfast that morning that protests and “lawlessness” in Cleveland would probably help Trump’s candidacy. (Public activity outside the convention venues seldom got out of hand.)

Manafort says protests in CLE will help Trump campaign, says that violence at previous rallies have ultimately helped Trump in polls— Michael C. Bender (@MichaelCBender) July 18, 2016

July 19, 2016: The previous night, Melania Trump made her convention debut, but headlines and TV coverage were consumed the next morning with comparisons of her speech with a Democratic convention speech by the then-First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Manafort spent the press briefing maintaining it was a non-story, hyped by the press and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the latter for partisan reasons.

Some themes of the respective speeches -- values, hard work, respect -- were similar, Manafort said, speaking with reporters at Cleveland’s convention center. But they also were universal, he said.

“These are themes that are personal to her, but they’re very personal to a lot of people, depending on the stories of their lives,” Manafort said. “Obviously Michelle Obama feels similar sentiments towards her family.”

Paul Manafort just now: “The American people did focus on what her message was. You all are trying to distort that message” in some regards.— SteveKoff (@SteveKoff) July 19, 2016

July 20, 12016: Reporters asked Manafort about policy and stylistic differences between the presumptive nominee and his pick for running mate, Mike Pence. Trump and Pence had appeared together over the weekend on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” and the word “awkward” showed up in a number of reviews.

“They may have different personalities, but they have similar visions and they have similar goals,” Manafort said. Their differences, he suggested, were no greater than those found in marriages.

Paul Manafort on Trump/Pence relationship: “I’m confident it’s a less awkward situation than you’ve seen in many marriages.”— Andrew J. Tobias (@AndrewJTobias) July 20, 2016

July 21, 2016: Ted Cruz, the Texas U.S. senator who vied unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination, got his chance to address the RNC the previous night. It was a disaster. Uttering Trump’s name only once, Cruz made clear he had no love for the nominee, and he told delegates and a national television audience to “vote your conscience.” (The enmity had gone both ways: Earlier in the campaign, Trump suggested that Cruz’s father had ties to Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.) Cruz’s wife was heckled, and the senator was booed off stage.

What was the Trump campaign thinking? Manafort faced the question the next morning.

Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort: Ted Cruz ‘Made A Mistake’ At RNC | TODAY https://t.co/RWYapsrboI— Cookie (@Cookiemuffen) July 21, 2016

It was Cruz’s fault, he said. The campaign put no conditions on speakers “but the speakers understood what their roles were to be,” Manafort, still in Cleveland, told NBC’s Today show from its broadcast booth near The Q.

Back at the convention center, Manafort characteristically maintained a positive spin: Cruz’s speech helped unify the party.

“There were a number of Cruz delegates on the floor last night who disagreed with what Mr. Cruz did, including his home state of Texas, which came up to us unprompted and said this wasn’t right of Cruz, and we’re supporting the Trump-Pence ticket,” Manafort said.

Manafort knows how to put on a good face